As The Turbines Turn: ONE YEAR OLD!

WindFarm     CofCWebLogoLRG (814x548)

This month is the one-year anniversary of the column “As the Turbines Turn”, written by McCamey Chamber of Commerce Secretary Wendy Rossiter. The column is published on a bi-weekly basis (sometimes weekly) by the McCamey News.

ATT is a revival of a previous Chamber column, and its name is a nod to that great West Texas lady (and former Chamber Secretary) Roylene Chandler-Davis, who was the author of the original, called “As the Windmills Turn”.
RIP Roylene.

Subjects have and will cover anything from current events, West Texas history, gardening, frontier psychology and humor, doings at the McCamey Chamber and as Roylene loved to write about, personal reflection.

One Feisty Schoolmarm: A West Texas Lady’s Legacy

Bobcat Hills Historical Marker, Photo by GB     Bobcat Hills, close to the Locklin Ranch, taken by Greg Bodin

“There are people who can achieve huge success in life, while adding a bit of fun and a splash of color to this increasingly grey world.” – Peter James

“Fall seven times, stand up eight.” – Japanese Proverb

In the advertising for the Women’s Study Club’s annual Style Show honoring the Senior Girls, I read a name in the program of a person who I knew nothing about. Curious, I decided to do some investigating on this Nora Locklin, a woman so esteemed, they had named a scholarship in her honor. I soon discovered that early on she had worked in West Texas as a teacher at various ranch schools while following her husband around West Texas, and that Mrs. Locklin was one tough lady.

Born in Goldtwaite in 1897, Nora Bernice Gentry met and married handsome rancher Dee Locklin in San Angelo in 1919. Dee Locklin had just returned to Texas from serving as a Private in the US Army during World War I. She joined him to live and raise and run cattle and sheep on their twenty section ranch which included the Pecos River’s narrower but still notoriously treacherous Adobe Crossing.

Nora taught in small ranch schoolhouses in Sheffield and surrounding areas. Dee also worked as a driller and tool dresser, so Nora Locklin saw and experienced more than most schoolteachers or ranchers’ wives would. At the time of her death at 101 years old, she was the last living person to have witnessed history in the making, the miraculous Santa Rita Gusher of 1923.

A wildcat well between Rankin and Big Lake, the Santa Rita well was drilled with the help of Nora’s husband Dee in an area that had “officially” seen no sign of oil. Financed in part by a Catholic women’s society, wildcatter Frank Pickerell climbed and christened the derrick with rose petals blessed by their priest. The well came in soon after it was named after the patron saint of the hopeless and impossible. Just like Dee knew it would.

In 1931, the bottom fell out of the cattle market after prices plummeted and the Locklins were forced to give it all up, or move to unfenced land (owned by the bank, but thought to be unsellable at any cost). Truth was, the bank they owed over $1000 to didn’t bargain on the Locklins actually taking them up on the offer.

Dee Locklin, determined not to lose it all, chose to take a big gamble instead of giving up what he had worked so hard for. It wasn’t an easy decision. This meant herding their 2500 sheep, 1,000 goats, 40 horses and a hundred cows a whopping 75 miles from Crockett County.

It was hard for Nora to leave the security of a home with a garden knowing that what lay on the other end of the move was acres of coyote-infested unfenced country. They could not sell their car, purchased only a few years prior, so Nora would ride “in comfort” the whole way. Some hills were so steep, the vehicle had to be nudged up by one of the horses.

They had to pass through five ranches to get to their new settlement three miles South of McCamey East of Bobcat Hills. The unprotected traveling herds were easy picking for predators and it was necessary to be constantly vigilant. In fact, the area was so infested State government and ranchers were forced to hire trappers just to help control the bobcats and coyotes in the area.

Fellow ranchers and their employees helped them control the herds and keep them separated on their way through. On the way, Mr. and Mrs. Dee Locklin helped close one of the last frontiers of the two counties.

Dee generously estimated that the trip would take them a little over a week, but it would take them eleven grueling days after the start of their journey to arrive. Camping in areas with nowhere to water the cattle, fighting coyotes and bobcats and losing much of their supplies they finally reached the ranch land near McCamey. Here Nora and Dee would start over.

The market improved, the country began to pull out of the Depression. Luckily hard-working Dee had been making money working as a driller as well and that kept them afloat. Not just treading water, either…they had also managed to hold on to most of their herds thanks to the bank’s offer, unlike many ranchers who owed the banks in West Texas.

Shortly after the birth of their children, the Locklins purchased a former army barracks in McCamey that had been converted into a grocery store. It was located at 9th and Johns. According to Billy Locklin himself (who I had the pleasure to meet this week), Nora and the boys ran the store and lived in the back.

Life finally eased up a little, giving Mrs. Dee Locklin time to become involved in the community. Nora became very active in the McCamey Women’s Study Club, at one point in her membership she was elected to serve as the Texas Federation of Women’s Clubs Western District President.

She remained a well-respected friend to many and community-minded citizen and member of the First Christian Church until her passing in 1998. She left behind two children, five grandchildren, 14 great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren. In 2011, relative Barbara Barton published a book, “Two Feisty Schoolmarms” (of which Nora Locklin was one) chronicling Mrs. Dee Locklin’s teaching days near Knickerbocker and elsewhere in West Texas.

Many years after she retired as a teacher in Sheffield, Nora Locklin is still giving students a hand up towards future success. Every year, one Senior Girl from the McCamey High School graduating class is awarded a $1000 scholarship given out in Nora’s honor, presented by the Women’s Study Club. Applicants are evaluated on their personal achievements such as dependability, honesty, citizenship, and the desire to succeed.

There are fewer every year that are still around who knew Nora Locklin and fewer still who know the story of her interesting life. As long as the Nora Locklin Scholarship is presented, she will never be forgotten.

It was a very good year: Vintage McCamey

TXmcamey-st-r2-800_preview(Historic TexasDotnet)     CloseUpMcCamey1950sMural (2) (1280x838)

“Men are like wine – some turn to vinegar, but the best improve with age.” – Pope John XXIII

“Formula for success: rise early, work hard, strike oil.” – J. Paul Getty

“A good year” is a phrase wine growers use to describe a potentially successful season. This is a year that presents the ideal conditions, for those who know how, to create the best that can be produced. Circumstances must be just right and it takes skill, courage, speculation and a lot of luck. Just so for something else that goes in a barrel!

It was a fantastic year for A.S. Burleson (you may recognize the name), then Postmaster General of the United States. Just a few years previous, Burleson bought 14,000 acres of land in the area, and it was suddenly worth a great deal. The first two lots sold became the city center, at the corner of what is now 5th and McKinney.

Thousands of workers who had been laid off from manufacturing, farming or ranch jobs were desperate to find paid work. This new settlement where Mr. McCamey had just recently “hung his shingle” on the side of a railroad car was the place for many recently uprooted to get a “fresh start”.

Conditions were very rough, at first. There were few houses, most lived in rented tents ($1.00 a day), cots rented at the First Baptist Church (75 cents a night) or oilfield workers shacks (if they were lucky). Lack of housing forced some to return every night, after working all day, to Big Lake and other surrounding cities, by rail.

There were no paved roads, until 1927 compacted soil was smoothed and oiled to keep down the dust. McCamey’s few streets were described as “resembling the shell-pitted fields of France in miniature” by the El Paso Herald. Water had to be brought in to the area, at $1.00 a barrel, it was used and recycled as many times as possible for cooking, bathing, cleaning, watering animals and irrigation, as you could imagine.

Between the incessant wind, heat, occasional downpour and the lack of running water, sewer or electricity, one could only imagine what it must have been like. Bob Barger, who came to McCamey in June of 1925 said, “…there were mud, board walks, horses stuck in the muddy streets and being pulled out with chains. It was hard going.” There were some automobiles, but the roads were sometimes impossible to drive.

Upland had received mail since 1906. This post office operated until 1916, when mail was then specially delivered to the area from nearby Crossett. It would be twenty years before McCamey received its own post office.

The first businesses included honkytonks, hotels, grocery and general stores and restaurants. There were no saloons due to Prohibition, but bootleggers kept the area supplied and there was known to be an area where there hung a “red light”.

By this time, there were THREE newspapers operating out of McCamey. The Tri-County Record and Daily Telegram (W.D. Riser) and McCamey Leader (R.A. Hall) ran until they were bought out and consolidated into the McCamey News in 1929.

By 1927 the intrepid investors, oil companies and citizens had built a waterworks and sewer system and a school for over 500 pupils, and installed limited electric light and telephones. There were many churches and four theaters.

Even then, so much money was being made in the oil fields that investors who cashed checks for a fee could not keep up with demand on paydays. Workers still had to travel to Rankin (or further) to redeem their paychecks. Security Bank would not be founded in McCamey until 1928.

Only 90 and three days years after the State declared its Independence from Mexico, McCamey was incorporated. This year saw the birth of our City. Upland had sprouted and then withered in 1916 and Crossett all but dried up and blew away in the ‘40s, but McCamey remained.

No matter how far residents were forced to “prune back” in boom or bust, McCamey continues to grow and produce new citizens, organizations and businesses from its well-established roots. The busy rail line and two intersecting highways built through town in the years following incorporation made McCamey the shipping, oilfield service and travel hub it is today.

By all accounts, 1925 to 1926 was what we all would call “a good year”. Closing in on the 90th anniversary of the first barrels (of oil) being produced in our city, you could say that it has aged well, too.

What Makes a Hero: It’s So Much More Than Just Putting on That Uniform

McCamey Vets Memorial Wall of Honor     Iron Sculpture at Veterans Memorial

“What makes Superman a hero is not that he has power, but that he has the wisdom and the maturity to use the power wisely” – Christopher Reeve

“It doesn’t take a hero to order men into battle. It takes a hero to be one of those men who go into battle.” – H. Norman Schwarzkopf

The word “hero” gets overused by many. Said jokingly, “you’re my hero” could mean the opposite or nothing at all, an insult. That person could have brought in coffee and donuts for everyone at the work site. A simple thank you probably would have sufficed in response to that person who saved you a trip to the post office or watched the kids for an hour while you went to an appointment.

But to some it still means something. In fact, many veterans feel uncomfortable when the term is used, in conjunction with their name. To them, there is always someone greater; after serving alongside others it seems they have raised the bar somewhere unattainable. Their hero lost more than they themselves did, or saved more lives, or perhaps didn’t make it back at all.

For those former soldiers who won’t admit that simply serving their country selflessly makes them a hero in our eyes, there is something we can do that they can’t deny us. McCamey built a Wall of Honor.

In a City this size, you would assume that two Walls would be enough to contain the names of those who have served. The McCamey Veterans Memorial Committee is proud to say that just two years after the Memorial was dedicated, they have run out of room.

The proceeds from this year’s Veterans Memorial Golf Tournament on April 25th at the McCamey Country Club will fund a continuation behind the original Walls, to ensure McCamey’s veterans can be recognized in perpetuity. To register your four-person scramble team or make a donation, call Oscar at 432-813-2437 or register your team with JR Zamora at 432-664-2437.

The Wall is a testament that this community will never forget their sacrifices and their bravery, and most importantly, their names and accomplishments. That we are proud of them, our hometown heroes.

To some, the McCamey Wellness Center is not just a place where they can work out or socialize. For those in poor health or experiencing personal hardship, it’s a step on their path to a better life. The Center’s programs and equipment are tools to help regular people better their bodies so that they can battle illnesses and overcome injuries, find the strength to conquer their woes and stay active.

Great health allows people to continue to do the “everyday things” that make them a hero in someone’s eyes, such as just being a Dad, or a great person to work for, or a volunteer. Health success stories (such as those we have seen a lot of thanks to the programs at the Wellness Center) inspire others to better themselves, to work harder.

This June 6th, the McCamey Wellness Center will host a Superhero 5K Run. Participants are encouraged to dress as their favorite superhero, monies raised will go towards buying more equipment for the Wellness Center. 5K Entry is $20, for more information or to register call MHD Wellness Center 432.652.4016.